A/N: This is my first attempt at writing an AU, so please be gentle. This was originally chapter 8 First Love from my story "100 Fish in the Sea," requested by Hell's Angel 606. Let's spread the AquaxCloud love, people! And since I'm the very first one who wrote about this pairing, I'd like to come up with a name for it. How 'bout Cloqua? It sounds better than Aqloud, right? Also, I imagined Tifa to be only one or two years older than Aqua, and Kairi and Selphie to be 1,5 years younger than Aqua. As for Cloud, just think that the Sephiroth-thing never happened, which makes him a less taciturn guy, I guess, and more... Zack-like? Enjoy. ;D
~ "Hey, what about…that guy over there? He's cute!" Aqua's friend suddenly exclaimed, pointing very subtly at someone that practically sat next to them in the restaurant. ~
After what seemed to be ages (but in reality, it had only been five long days. How strange was that? Time really was a bitch when you wanted it to go fast), it was finally Friday. A great day. In fact, it was one of the best days of the week, because after five endlessly long days of all work and no play, the weekend would start. Three (mainly) carefree days, full of fun and joy, without having much worries about school, projects and other frustrating stuff that made your blood pressure increase drastically.
For Aqua, it had become pretty much a tradition to celebrate the start of the weekend with her three best friends (Selphie, Tifa and Kairi) in some pub, cozy coffee shop, restaurant, or just at someone's home when they were too broke to buy a drink. Besides, making a drink for themselves and watching a movie afterwards was fun enough, too, so most of the time, there was nothing to complain about.
This week, however, it had been Aqua's turn to choose a place and she had chosen for her favorite restaurant, as always. The restaurant's name was Novecento. It had the best Italian food and the best triple chocolate cheesecake, which both happened to be one of the things Aqua really liked.
The mintgreen-colored walls had all different paintings on them. All of them had something to do with food, or the Italian culture (whatever that might be.) The atmosphere was always nice, too. It wasn't too quiet and deserted to feel all lonely and as if the waiters were only staring at you because there simply wasn't anyone there, but it wasn't too crouded to be able to breathe properly, either. Especially not today, which was a good thing. In the background, you could hear the clattering of cutlery on plates, the clink of glasses and the humming voices of people talking and laughing.
As of now, though, Aqua had started to regret the fact that she had come along with them this time, because somehow, the subject they had been discussing had lead them straight to something that Aqua didn't like talking about at all. Suddenly, they were, once again, discussing Aqua's current status, or with other words: the fact that she was the only one in their group who was still single. The most annoying thing to this was that they were talking about her as if she wasn't even here!
The irked bluenette felt much for waving her hands in front of their faces, saying "Hello! I'm right here. I can hear exactly what you're saying!"
Not that it would help anything. Aqua didn't mind it that much that she was the only single girl of their clique, though. It was needless to say that she was very happy for Selphie to have a relationship with Tidus. Tidus was really fun to hang out with and you never got bored with him around. That was guaranteed.
She also thought that Tifa and Squall (although he preferred being called Leon) actually were a great match. It was almost scary. They both had a great (albeit sometimes a little strange) sense of humor, and both were incredibly stubborn at times, but that only made their bond stronger.
And she obviously didn't have to mention Kairi and Sora, since there was no doubt that those two were just made for each other. Even a complete fool would sense that. Sora was such a sweet guy and Aqua could see that he loved Kairi with all his heart. He was caring, romantic, funny, cute too (especially when he was nervous), the perfect guy for a perfect girl like Kairi.
So that left only Aqua without a lover. She never mourned about this fact, but apparently, her friends thought that they should find someone for her, since she couldn't find someone herself.
"Here's your deserts, ladies. Bon Appetit," the cheerful waiter said, giving them all the triple chocolate cheesecake.
The young man in question was really handsome. He had black, unruly spiky hair and deep blue eyes that left you week knees. And when he smiled, his cheeks showed dimples, only making him more desirable under the women.
"Thank you," the four of them said in unison, before Selphie added, after reading his nametag, "...Zack."
This would be a great moment for the guy to admit that his name was actually 'Bob' or something, and that he was only wearing this nametag because he was borrowing this uniform for some unknown reason... Well, that always happened in clichéd movies and books.
The male smiled, replying with, "You're very welcome, Ma'am. How was dinner?"
So his name actually was Zack. Fine, then. Pretty unexpected, too. But it suited him much more.
"Oh, it was delicious," Tifa replied, before licking her lips flirtatiously for emphasis. "Right, Aqua?"
She kicked Aqua from under the table to get her attention, and she succeeded greatly at that.
Aqua glared darkly at her, rubbing her hurt leg carefully (Tifa could really kick hard. It was a small wonder that she hadn't broken her bones, since she was teaching martial arts to people), before turning to the helpful waiter and replying with, "Um...yeah. It was good, as always."
Her friends rolled their eyes at her simple answer, but Aqua did not care much. She was so not in the mood for this useless flirting with this confident (but cute) waiter. (Somehow, he reminded her a little of an over-enthousiastic puppy with big, curious eyes that wanted to understand more of the world around them.) And the guy probably had a girlfriend already, anyway, because with the personality and looks like that, it was hard to stay single.
"I'm glad to hear that, ladies. Well, if there's anything else you need, just call," Zack said, pretty cheerfully.
He winked at them, before swiftly walking away when he saw that his boss was giving him a stern look that obviously said, 'Don't you dare to talk with the customers when there's so much work to do!'
"Heheh, did you see that? He's still staring at us," Selphie noted, giggling. She twirled a strand of her rather long hair around her finger, making the ends of it even more curly.
"And how," Kairi added, amused, with a small smile. "Isn't he the cutest and most adorable guy you've ever seen? Oh, I'm not counting Sora here, of course."
This errupted another set of giggles from the girls. Aqua, who had apparently been spacing out once again (it must be the food, or something), followed Selphie's lingering gaze and saw that the waiter who had just talked to them, Zack, was indeed stealing glances at them every now and then. Whenever his met the gaze of one of the girls, he'd shoot them one of his trademark grins, before returning to work.
He sure was the fastest waiter who was currently in the restaurant, too. He seemed to race from table to table, always happy to help people, take their orders and serve them delicious meals, all with a smile on his face. Aqua had honestly never seen someone this energetic and she had to admire him for that, and for his upbeat attitude.
"Well, he probably thinks one of us has a major crush on him, whereas we're only trying to help someone here with finding the right guy," Tifa said, looking at Aqua for emphasis.
She noticed that Tifa sounded more amused than she should be. This made Aqua sigh. How great was this, getting extra attention from everyone, while she didn't want to get noticed now.
"The uniform does make him look pretty cute, though. Hey Aqua, didn't you tell me once that you felt more attracted to guys in uniforms?" Selphie asked.
She was kidding, right? Please let her be kidding. Well, according to that look on her face and the way she arched her thin eyebrows, she definitely wasn't.
"Uh... no. Listen, guys, I really do appreciate your, uh… "help-'" although she would call it something else, "but I think I'll manage being happy without a boyfriend, too," Aqua said, carefully.
She had managed to be happy without a boyfriend for eighteen years already, which basically meant all her life, so who said that that couldn't be possible anymore? To be honest, she didn't really like it when her friends were acting like this. Honestly, what was so bad about being single, or about wanting to be single, because you knew it was only a matter of time, some waiting and being patient before you would find your one and true love?
Why didn't they ever believe her when she said so? Would she ever lie to them about this?
Why didn't they think that it could be different for everyone?
"Nonsense, Aqua. It just wouldn't be fair to you if we all were in cloud nine and you weren't," Kairi countered swiftly, waving it all away with a flick of her wrist. "Besides, this is what friends are for, right? Helping you when nobody else can, even, and maybe especially, when it involves cute guys like that waiter over there... although I have to say that Sora still stays much cuter."
Aqua did her best not to roll her eyes at what she said before the comment about Sora. So that was what they were calling it, helping your friends in need?
"Ah, is that your way of finally admitting that you were having a great time with Sora yesterday?" Tifa spoke, referring to Kairi's date with Sora.
For some unknown reason, Kairi had chosen not to tell them anything about it yet, but it was just a matter of time before she would start about it. Aqua was sure of that. Either way, she was glad that for once, her friends's attention wasn't on her anymore.
"...I never said I didn't, Teef."
Tifa smirked at that answer and was about to say something when Selphie, who hadn't said anything yet, because she had been concentrating on other things (guys, people, guys!), started to talk, or rather, yell.
"Hey, what about…that guy over there? He's cute!" Selphie suddenly exclaimed with a rather high-pitched voice, which made several people turn their head her way, either curious, or slightly annoyed at the noise.
As always, Selphie blatantly ignored them. She was still pointing very subtly at someone that practically sat next to them in the restaurant, albeit more to the corner so he wouldn't completely stand out.
Aqua knew that he, whoever it was she was pointing at, had heard that, too. It was hard to miss anything Selphie said, or rather, squealed, due to her sometimes shrill voice (especially when she was excited about something). That always drew unnecessary attention to her, like now.
The blue-haired beauty flinched and slowly turned her head to his direction. She really hoped he would ignore them. But then, their eyes met...
Selphie had been right: he was so handsome!
Aqua quickly averted her gaze, feeling how her cheeks started to color slightly. As of now, she could practically feel how the man's gaze was still resting on her. Talk about awkward. She could feel how she started to shiver slightly under because of his stare, but she managed to control it.
"Hmm… I have to admit that you're right, Selph. If I hadn't met Leon already, I certainly would've chased after him. Maybe even literally," Tifa mused, earnestly.
Kairi laughed. "Yeah, we don't expect anything different from you, Teef."
Tifa blinked a couple of times, a quizzical look appearing on her flawless face. She was probably wondering if she should be offended or not. For the sake of not ruining this evening with her best friends, she chose for the latter.
"…I'll take that as a compliment."
"Oh, you totally should, because it is," Kairi assured her, smiling. Suddenly, she gasped. "Hey, wait a second. Isn't that… yes, it is! That's Sora's brother!"
"Are you sure?" Selphie asked, looking at the man again. "Because last time I saw Roxas he looked...a few years younger."
"Well, duh! Maybe that's because he isn't Roxas."
"Oh? Is that... Sora's other brother?" Tifa guessed, suddenly remembering that Kairi had mentioned something about Sora having two brothers and one sister once.
So this had to be his older brother, but she couldn't remember his name to save her life. You had Sora, Roxas, Xion and... who again?
"Uh-huh. Look at his eyes, they look almost the same as Sora's… Although I have to agree that he resembles Roxas more, what with the hair and skin. ...Wow, I almost forgot how handsome he is. And the fact that he's only wearing black only makes him look so much hotter, don't you think?"
"Hey, back off! He's Aqua's. You've got Sora already," Selphie joked.
"So what's his name?" Tifa wondered, sounding a little too interested.
They were all looking at the man now. For some unknown reason, he seemed to be smiling lightly, even though all he really did was looking at his empty plate that was on the table, in front of him. Had he heard what they were all saying? Perhaps there should be no doubt to it now.
"I honestly can't remember," Kairi admitted. "Why? Is it just me, or do you really seem to like him?"
"Hey, I can't really help it, okay? Even you can't deny he's hot at this point," Tifa countered fiercely. "Come on, even from here you can see he's so hot that he sizzles."
Aqua was the only one who didn't, no, couldn't speak. She was at a loss of words. The man Selphie had mentioned had blonde, unruly, gravity defying spiky hair and the bluest and most beautiful eyes she had ever seen. They were even more beautiful than the color of the sky on a cloudless day. Actually, the whole picture was perfect, or maybe that was because of features. He seemed to be slightly older than Aqua, maybe by three years. That would make him twenty one years old, at the most. He was slightly lean, too, but in contrast, his arms were pretty muscular, especially from this angle. Maybe he was a trained swordsman, or perhaps he did weight training in his free time. Heck, maybe he even was a model. With a flawless skin like that and the look in his electric blue eyes, she wouldn't be surprised if he was. Was it just her, or had it really become warm in here?
Aqua glanced over to the corner of the restaurant again, and found herself being captivated by the other's intense gaze and his spiky hair, again. She caught herself quickly this time, realizing what she was doing, and abruptly looked away again from his razor sharp eyes. She had no right to stare at him like that, no matter how attractive he was. It was ill-mannered. Besides, the sudden inexplicable attraction she felt for the stranger probably wasn't even reciprocated.
Fortunately for her, Selphie didn't notice anything about Aqua's sudden change of attitude, and she started summing up all the 'hot things' about the guy… who now happened to listen attentively to her, as if he was genuinely interested in what the young woman had to say. Aqua couldn't really blame him. She probably would've done the very same if she had been in his place. He had even turned his chair slightly (or was that just her imagination playing with her), so he was facing them more, but still not fully. He leaned his head against the palm of his hand, his elbow propped up on the table.
"Hey Aqua, don't you agree with me that he looks very cute now?" Selphie whispered, nudging her.
"Ugh, could we stop using that word?" Aqua groaned, embarrassed, with her head in her hands.
Her cheeks were really warm, and probably just as red as she thought they were, which wasn't good at all.
It was silent for a moment, until Selphie seemed to recover. "Okay... if that's what you want. Hmm, you know, all that talking actually made me forget that I needed to go to the bathroom."
Aqua finally looked up, giving her a funny look. What in the world was she talking about? She had been to the toilet not even fifteen minutes ago, before all this had started.
"...Yeah, me too," Kairi said, with a voice that made it clear she had got some hint.
But what hint? Did she miss something? What was happening?
"Wow, me too. We'll be right back, Aqua," Tifa hastened to add.
Okay, that did it. Tifa was the worst actress ever and this only confirmed that something wasn't quite right here. They were hiding something from her and the bluenette was determined to find out what.
"Huh? What's it with this sudden-"
She gasped and her cerulean eyes widened drastically as realization hit her. Of course. They wanted to leave her alone, so the guy would get their silent invitation and would come to her, attempting to start a conversation. He did look at someone who would take the initiative and everyone knew that Aqua was incredibly shy when it came to flirting. Maybe that was why she was still single. It obviously couldn't be because of her looks or personality, they had figured that much.
Wow... they were really bad...
"No, I'm coming, too," Aqua swiftly said, already half getting up from her seat.
"Oh no, you don't!"
She had expected to hear that from Kairi, but instead, Selphie grabbed her shoulders and forced her to sit down again. Aqua yelped, because the strength Selphie had used made her almost fall over the other side of the chair. That girl had some unexpected strength when needed. That strange glint in her eyes made her look dangerous enough for Aqua to keep her mouth shut about it, too. She gulped, trying to think of a way to get out of this, before it was too late to turn back.
"We need someone to look after our uh... handbags," Selphie explained to her, sounding sweet again. "We wouldn't want them to get stolen during our absence, now would we?"
Rather dazed, Aqua nodded, giving in. For her, this was one of those situations from which you couldn't escape, so she would admit her defeat. She just had to stay here and take it like a woman.
Then, Selphie went to the bathroom, closely followed by a smirking Tifa, who winked at her, and a giggling Kairi. As soon as they were all gone, Aqua realized how lonely she looked, being the only one who was left behind. That had to look pretty sad for everyone who saw her now, being abandoned by the people she called her friends. Honestly, why was she still hanging out with them? They were so dead as soon as this was over!
Almost (un)consciously, her gaze shifted back to the spiky-haired young man again. Her heart almost stopped at that moment, because he was staring right into her eyes. She quickly averted her gaze and closed her eyes for a brief moment. Opening them again, she opted to take a sip of her soda. Not because she was thirsty, but more because she had something to do that way. The bluenette always had to keep her hands busy when she was nervous, otherwise everyone would be able to see how much her hands trembled.
Aqua looked at her watch, suddenly deciding to keep track of the time. Anything to keep her mind busy. It was a perfect opportunity to think of something else other than him. Oh, and if they didn't return from the bathroom soon, then she would just get up, barge into the toilet and tell them-
She wasn't able to finish that particular thought, because from the corner of her eyes she saw some movement that made her brains freeze. The sound of chair legs being scraped against the floor was heard and Aqua just knew it was him.
And... she was right about that one. The (probably now thoroughly amused) man slowly started approaching Aqua, who held her breath as she listened to his heavy footsteps, the sound of his boots somewhat muted because of the carpeted floor. Oh god, this was so not good for her blood pressure.
"Good evening," he said, greeting her in a deep, velvety voice, when he reached her table.
He had a very pleasant voice, she had to give him that. Ugh, wasn't there anything about him that wasn't frustratingly perfect? Perfect-looking people always made her feel uncomfortable and selfconscious about her own imperfections. And it honestly didn't help when the person in question had such an impact on her. It felt close to being hypnotized, but ten times worse.
Breathe, Aqua. Breathe! You're not going to die of this...unless your heart suddenly stops working alltogether, because of this man. He may look attractive, very attractive I may add, but one should never judge a book on its cover. I wouldn't be surprised if it was a jerk without any manners. It wouldn't be the first jerk you've met, anyway, Aqua thought, nervously running a hand through her glossy blue locks.
"Hello," she said, forcing herself to smile politely at him.
Drat, she probably looked like she had toothache, or something. Just great.
"Is this seat taken?" he asked, raising a thin, perfect eyebrow.
Aqua's breath hitched and she looked away from his questioning gaze. "No… not anymore," she replied, hoping that he hadn't heard that quiver in her voice.
"Then may I?"
Gosh, was he serious? That questioning yet slightly amused look on his face did it. Her stomach made a funny backflip at his tone and it cost her all her strength to keep her voice neutral.
Aqua nodded, still surprised. "Sure."
"Thanks," he said with a small nod, as he took place across from her.
At once, Aqua smelled his aftershave faintly and she loved it. Unconsciously, she inhaled deeply through her nose, taking in his scent, because this smell was one of her weaknesses. Now it would come. He would definitely say something about her crazy friends and the way they had all been ogling him. The silence was just too much to-
"...It suits you."
"I'm sorry?" she asked, confused now.
What suited her? Her pure awkwardness?
"Your hair I mean. I remember Sora mentioning something about Kairi having a friend with blue hair. At first it sounded really strange, I'm not going to lie about that, but I have to admit that it looks great on you. And it matches your eyes, too."
"Oh... uhm, thanks," Aqua said, shyly.
"You're welcome, uh...?"
Figuring that he wanted to know her name, she said, "My name is Aqua."
He thought that that was a beautiful name, even though he didn't tell her. Very fitting, too, seeing that she was clad in blue and that even her eyes and hair were aqua-blue.
"I'm Cloud," he told her, extending a heavily gloved hand towards her.
She took his hand and was amazed at how firm it felt. Before she would start blushing, the blue-haired female let go of his hand.
"Cloud? As in..."
Her gaze unconsciously shifted to the sky outside, looking at the white, fluffy clouds that drifted by slowly.
"Yes," was the simple answer.
Well, if that wasn't surprising, she didn't know what was.
"It's the first time I've seen you around here," Cloud admitted. "Do you come here often?"
"Every once in a while..." although she definitely wouldn't mind visiting this restaurant more from now on. "And you?"
"Almost every week. My friend Zack, the waiter who served you your deserts, works here. So usually, after I'm done with my own job, I just drop by," he explained.
Aqua nodded. "I see."
Was she glad that she didn't flirt with her friend. Some bad impression that would be!
"If you don't mind me asking, where do you work?" the bluenette required with mild interest now.
The more they talked, the more comfortable Aqua started to feel around Cloud Strife. It was almost as though that look in his eyes made her feel completely at ease. During this conversation, she found out a lot about him. He made deliveries on his motorcycle and sometimes he helped a friend of his run a bar named Seventh Heaven. Some of her suspicions about him had been right, too, because he was a swordsman, who was planning to participate this year's tournament. He'd won twice already, but he still participated every year. Well, this explained his built.
The two kept talking for a while, until Aqua's friends, who had been following the scene from afar, decided to come back.
When Cloud spotted them heading to his direction from the corner of his eyes, he figured that it was time to leave now.
The blonde straightened again and turned his attention back to Aqua with an apologetic look on his face. "I should go now. It really was a pleasure to meet you. See you... Aqua."
They shook hands and Aqua felt how he slipped something small into her hand. The spiky-haired blonde stayed quiet about it, though. When Cloud got up from his chair and turned around to leave, he almost knocked over a grinning Selphie, who yelped in surprise.
"Sorry," he quickly muttered.
"Oh, that's okay," Selphie smiled, taking his hand in hers and squeezing it lightly.
For some unknown reason, Cloud smirked at that, looking at his hand, then back at Selphie. He nodded once, as if he was grateful for something. Aqua frowned, wondering if that was some sort of trick of Selphie to make her jealous, or something, but she chose not to say anything about it. It didn't seem that interesting, anyway.
As soon as he had left the restaurant, Tifa asked, "And? What happened?"
"We... talked," Aqua replied, truthfully, but they all gave her a look that made her think they didn't believe her at all, like she was hiding something from them.
"And he gave you his number, didn't he?" Kairi guessed, looking at her hand.
Aqua looked down at her hand as well. Her fingers were still closed around a piece of paper. She unfolded it and saw that there was indeed a number on it. A phone number, to be more precise.
"Yeah, he did," she replied, noticing how surprised she sounded.
"Are you going to call him?" Selphie asked, dying to know the answer.
Aqua honestly hadn't really thought about that. After all, they hadn't talked with each other that long to be sure that he was a keeper. Everything had happened so fast that it was hard for her to realize what she had done. But she could still smell that delicious scent of his.
"...I don't know," the blue-haired beauty eventually replied, truthfully.
"Ah, I already thought you wouldn't. And that's why I gave him your number, just to make sure that at least one of you will bother to call the other," Selphie said with a mischievous smile and that famous twinkle in her emerald green eyes.
Aqua's eyes widened instantly at her words. "You did what? Selphie!"
She made fists of her shaking hands, feeling more betrayed than angry. What if it had been some creep that wanted her number, instead of just Cloud? Did Selphie really gave her number to everyone she wanted? Some friend she was!
"What? I just wanted to be on the safe side," the hyper girl exclaimed, getting all defensive. "Really, you should be a bit happier about it, because I'm sure that he's going to call you back within 20 hours. That is, if you don't call him first."
Aqua sighed, only shaking her head. Sometimes, she felt as if Selphie was really trying to test her endurance. She wasn't even surprised by what she did. She was surprised by the fact that Cloud was such a gentleman, though, and yet still... well, there really was no word for it... but some impression he'd left on her. It was almost... magical.
~A few weeks later~
"Okay. I'll see you there... Bye... So do I..."
Aqua hung up the phone, still smiling because of Cloud's sweet call. He always managed to make her feel so deliriously happy, even if all that happened was hearing his voice. Had she ever mentioned that she was the luckiest girl in the world, all thanks to her weird friends?
She couldn't believe this, because this all seemed too good to be true. How was it possible? It had all started with Selphie getting his attention, and the casting of furtive glances at each other, until he'd finally stepped up to her and started a conversation. The next step had been the phone call the very next day, surprisingly enough coming from Cloud. Before Aqua had realized it, they were dating, and now they were a month together already.
...Thanks to Selphie (because she had done the most, but of course, Kairi and Tifa had helped, too), she now had a beautiful relationship with Cloud Strife, her first and only love.
Perhaps Selphie actually knew what she had been doing all the time...
On second thought: nah. Come on, this was Selphie they were talking about. Planning was so not her thing. She always did everything on a whim, and for the first time, Aqua was very, very grateful for that.
A/N: So, was it good? Bad? Horrible? Let me know. I thought that something seemed to be off. In the end, it didn't turn out as I wanted to... but I'm still okay with it. Want a sequel? It'll be out soon. Aqua needs a job, and Cloud has an idea, but that idea will only make him jealous… :) Also, this is my 13th entry for Bookaholic711's Project PULL. :)